The phrase ‘give the people what they want’ may not have been on Bloc Party’s minds when deciding on the set-list for their gig at the Southampton Guildhall. Attempting to cover four albums and a decade of tracks can always be tricky, but some of the song choices were somewhat surprising.
Support was provided by Theme Park, a funk-rock quartet from London. While the band’s sound was pleasant enough, and their performance was pitch perfect, the fact that it sounded like they were playing ‘Club Tropicana’ by Wham! on repeat couldn’t be ignored.
Bloc Party opened the set with ‘So He Begins To Lie’, a track off their new album Four which was released this summer to coincide with the band’s return from a hiatus that started in 2009. The crowd erupted instantly and this momentum was maintained throughout the rest of the show. The band jumped manically about their career, flitting from new tracks like ‘Kettling’ and ‘Coliseum’ to old favourites such as ‘Banquet’ and ‘Positive Tension’.
One problem with the set was that most of the material came from their new album Four, which although is often the point of a band touring their new material, it felt like a lot of favourite tracks by fans (ourselves including) were missed out. For example only two songs were used from their third album Intimacy, whereas favourites ‘Ares’ and ‘Zephyrus’ were left out in the cold. This meant a lot of the time was spent dancing about to songs we didn’t really know (including the rather dull ‘Real Talk’) Nonetheless, this didn’t spoil the evening but rather soured the experience, like watching your favourite film of all-time on a grainy, VHS copy.
Notable was the band’s comfortable on stage nature. Frontman Kele Okereke seemed relaxed throughout and the band gave the impression that they were happy to be there; perhaps this is the group version of make-up sex though, seeing as they have only just got back together. However, in refusing to cater to the audience’s obvious desire of them to play all the classics, the band’s stage presence was often not as electric as it could have been, an example being when they played obscure album-track ‘Day Four’ with an intensity that was embarrassingly contrasted with the audience’s lack of interest. The moments when the audience reciprocated the band’s enthusiasm were unquestionably euphoric, and this was almost always during songs from the band’s pre-hiatus era.
A highlight of the set was ‘One More Chance’, a fan-favourite that got the whole crowd singing along to its lead refrain, along with Kele’s manic dynamism. Other high points were ‘The Prayer’ and ‘Hunting for Witches’; the two songs’ dark and intense natures transferring brilliantly to the live domain. The set was ended, after two encores, with the group’s signature tune ‘Helicopter’. By this point the sweat drenched crowd – who had seemed to allow ‘Octopus’ to fizzle out – had second wind and went absolutely mental, ending the night on a high.
The gig was great. Despite an over-dependence on their new material, the band played with an intensity and skill that allowed one to easily look over the dud parts of the show. It wasn’t that the newer tracks were worse – they sounded cracking. It just struck us as odd that a band who has actually written ‘I Still Remember’ would refuse to play it. Maybe they forgot…